08/05/2019 | Natalie Jewitt
It's Children's Mental Health Week this week - 5-11 February 2018. The focus this year is encouraging children, young people and adults to celebrate their uniqueness. It’s all about #BeingOurselves. For many children and young people the journey to self acceptance, and really having the confidence and self-belief to be who they are can be challenging. 8 tips that you can do as a parent to help your child / young person to be comfortable with who they are:
1. Show Empathy
See the world through your child's eyes. Let them know that you are interested in how they see things, be curious and listen attentively when they explain things from their perspective. When we listen to our children attentively and show curiosity in their world they get the clear message that we want to hear what they have to say and we want to see what they see and understand the world as they do.
2. One to one time
Its important whenever possible that children get some one to one time with their parent(s). When we make spending time with our child a priority, even if it’s for 10 minutes each week, our child gets a clear message that they are important to us and are loved. When you create this one to one time give your child your undivided attention, put phones, iPads down and switch of the television. Let them choose how they want to spend the time, join their world!
Truly accept your child for who they are. Avoid the trap of comparing them to other children or siblings. A sweeping statement like “Why can’t you be more like…” will not help them to be comfortable with who they are as a person and could be damaging to their developing self esteem. When a child feels fully accepted for who they are they feel more secure in themselves to build relationships and be proud of who they are.
4. Give your child a voice
Let your child contribute to discussions, hear and acknowledge their views. By doing this you will communicate to them that their views are important and you value what they have to say. Don’t interrupt them if they are telling you something important, listen and hear them then summarise what you have heard to really let them know you have heard them.
We all make mistakes and that’s okay. If our children see mistakes as a learning opportunity they will develop important skills in how to deal with mistakes or failures in their life. So treat mistakes as learning experiences. When a child gets something wrong show them compassion and let them know that we all make mistakes and that’s okay. When we over react when our child makes a mistake, we can create a sense of shame and embarrassment in our child which can lower their confidence and make it difficult for them to take important risks in their future, due to an underlying fear of failing.
6. Help them see their strengths
Many children, particularly children with low self esteem, find it incredibly difficult to recognise their strengths. Help them by pointing out what you think their great at. Give them lots of detail so they can connect with the strength you identify. Give them an example of why you have seen this recently. When you have enjoyed spending time with them write them a little note telling them all the things you love about them.
7. Don’t run to fix things
Its great for children’s self esteem when they see a problem and our supported to solve the problems and make decisions for themselves. Avoid telling your child what to do; encourage them to come up with solutions to problems themselves. A metaphor I often use in my therapy space when talking about this is “when problems arise let your child / young person sit in the driving seat and you take the passenger seat, supporting them on their journey but allowing them to learn and develop”.
8. Be kind to yourself
Model compassion towards yourself, and when you catch yourself being critical, try showing a more understand and loving approach towards yourself. Our children are often watching how we talk about ourselves and to ourselves. So by doing his we are not only making steps towards improving our own self esteem we are also modelling this to our children.
If you have concerns about your child’s self esteem and feel additional support would be useful get in touch to arrange a free initial telephone call firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks for reading!
Article written by:
Dr Natalie Jewitt, CPsychol, BSc (Hons) DClin Psych